BRIDGEPORT, Ohio (WTRF) — Mental health issues among school children have reached near-crisis levels.

Emerging from the COVID era, many children grew up feeling closer to their tablet or iPhone…than to teachers and friends.

In the Bridgeport Schools, they have an entire team with a multi-layered approach to helping students get through difficult times.

Kids often face anxiety, depression, instability at home, peer pressure, poverty, relationship issues and social media trauma.

“And it has caused, I would guess, probably 80% of our issues. You know the fact that it’s now another tool that these kids bully each other with.”

Vicki Falcone | Counselor | Bridgeport High School

Academics can’t be absorbed if the child’s basic needs aren’t being met.

“Sometimes they come to school hungry, you know. When they come to school they’re being bullied and then they go home after school and maybe Mom’s depressed or Mom’s addicted and Dad’s not around and the kid doesn’t have electricity. I mean these kids aren’t coming to school all the time well-equipped to learn.”

Dorothy Matusick | Student Services | Bridgeport High School

They can link families with support like food or utility assistance.

The State of Ohio has now mandated that schools teach mental health basics.

“Safe healthy relationships, sexual assault training, signs of suicide and diversity training.”

Vicki Falcone | Counselor | Bridgeport High School

They show students how to watch friends for signs of suicidal thoughts.

“Have they lost interest in things that they were once passionate about? Are they openly saying they feel like a burden?”

Dorothy Matusick | Student Services | Bridgeport High School

They tailor the help to the need.

They have two school-based therapists from Southeast Healthcare at the school, able to treat students with the more serious problems.

“Elevated anxiety, a depressive episode, a student who’s really having a lot of trouble focusing in class, a student who may be struggling with following directions and they may be having a little bit of a defiant disorder.”

Kayla Dixon | School-based therapist | Bridgeport High School

In this school district of 750 students, 102 of them are currently receiving school-based therapy.

“You know we live in a world where it’s messy. We’re human beings in a very messy world so not every person who experiences sadness or a hard day is going to need therapy.”

Dorothy Matusick | Student Services | Bridgeport High School

But at Bridgeport Schools, help is available to every child, on every level that might be needed.